§ Mr. Edward Gardner
asked the Secretary of State for Defence (1) when the experimental aircraft programme upon which the long-term future of the agile combat aircraft depends is expected to be completed;
(2) when he expects to reach a decision on whether the agile combat aircraft is to be adopted by the Royal Air Force as its future fighter;
(3) what amount of Government finance, in addition to the £50 million already committed to the building and testing of the agile combat aircraft, is to be made available for its development.
§ Mr. Pattie
The experimental aircraft is expected to fly in about three years' time and then to undertake a period of flight testing.
It is too early to say when a decision will be taken on a future fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force. The aim of the experimental aircraft programme and associated work in the STOVL field is to gain a sounder technological base for future decisions and a better understanding of the many operational issues involved. Further matters to be addressed include the central questions of costs and affordability, the prospects for collaboration and the size of the potential overseas market.
The funding of the agile combat aircraft remains a matter for the companies concerned. Our current discussions with industry relate to the experimental aircraft programme and the extent of the Government's contribution to that programme.